The biblical matriarch Leah was the wife of Jacob and the mother of six of the twelve
tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
Information about Rachel is found in Genesis chapters 29-35.
Leah was the oldest daughter of Laban, Rebekahs brother. The only physical description of her is that she had "weak
eyes" (Genesis 29:17) Jacob
married Leah because of a trick of Laban. Jacob ran to Haran to escape
from his brother Esau. In Haran, Jacob fell in love with Rachel, Leahs
younger sister. He reached a deal with Laban that he would work for
Laban seven years to marry Rachel. Jacob worked seven years and, at
the end of that time, Laban made a feast at which he was to give his
daughter to Jacob. Instead of giving him Rachel, however, Laban tricked
Jacob and gave him Leah.
Jacob confronted Laban about the trickery and
Laban agreed to give him Rachel one week later, provided Jacob would
work for him an additional seven years. Jacob agreed, married Rachel,
and loved Rachel more than Leah. This hurt Leah and God consoled her
with children. Leah was not comforted, however, and named her sons
accordingly. Her firstborn was Reuben because "the Lord has seen
(in Hebrew raah) my affliction" and "now my
husband will love me (yeehabani)"(Genesis
29:32). Her second son was Simeon because "the Lord heard (shama)
that I was unloved"(Genesis
29:33). Her third she named Levi in the hope that "this time
my husband will become attached (yillaweh) to me"(Genesis
29:34). Only her fourth sons name was not directly connected
to Leahs relationship with her husband. She named him Judah
because "this time I will praise (odeh) the Lord"(Genesis
After Leah had four children, Jacobs next two
sons were born to Rachels maid Bilhah. Leah then gave Jacob her
own maid, Zilpah, as a concubine. Zilpah gave birth to two sons, Gad
One time, during a harvest, Reuben brought Leah
some mandrakes. Rachel asked for them and gave Leah the right to
sleep with Jacob that night in exchange. Leah subsequently conceived
her fifth son, Issachar. She had another son, Zebulun, and a
daughter, Dinah, before Rachel gave birth to her first child.
After Rachels son, Joseph, was born, Jacob told
Leah and Rachel that God had commanded him to return to his homeland
of Canaan. They responded that he should do what God told him and
they would follow.
The next time Leah is mentioned occurs when Jacob
met with his estranged brother Esau. Jacob formed a receiving line of
his wives and children, putting the maids and their children first,
Leah and her children in the middle, and Rachel and her son at the
It is not written when Leah died, but only that
she was buried in the Cave
of Machpelah. Leah left as her legacy half of the 12
tribes, including Judah, father of the monarchy, and Levi, father of
Judaica. "Leah." 1978 Edition.
Scriptures: Genesis, The
Jewish Publication Societys translation, New York: 1985.